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2007-09-28 - A day to remember: POW/MIA Day honored with breakfast, memorial dedication

 TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- It was a morning to remember, grieve and honor the nation's prisoners of war and those who are or were missing in action. 
   In correlation with National POW/MIA Recognition Day, Tinker held a breakfast and memorial dedication service honoring the captured and lost on Sept. 21. More than 350 guests attended the two Tinker ceremonies. 
   "I was really honored," said Chief Master Sgt. Roddy Hartsook, Tinker Chief's Group committee chairperson, which sponsored the breakfast. "Some true heroes were in our midst." 
   The first event, a breakfast at the Tinker Club, was attended by more than 330 people, including former POWs and the mother of a recently recovered MIA soldier's remains. Guests were also joined by the memory of 46 MIA military members as each table had one seat left open for a MIA member placard. Of the 46 empty seats, 42 were Oklahomans. 
   "The entire event went off in a great way," the chief said. 
   The breakfast began with traditional military customs including the posting of the colors, national anthem, invocation and the POW/MIA ceremony set for four. 
   Set at the front of the room, each empty seat represented Americans missing from one of the four services: Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines. 
   Following the ceremony and breakfast, Retired Col. Leroy W. Stutz, former POW during the Vietnam War, addressed the guests. 
   For 30 minutes, he spoke about his difficult endeavors as a POW, captured in North Vietnam and detained in Hoa Lo Prison, or Hanoi Hilton to its prisoners. His speech centered on his whereabouts on Sept. 21 between 1967 and 1972. 
   "They asked me to speak about the 21st of September and share what I was doing that day during those six years," the colonel said. 
   Col. Stutz said every September since 1972, it didn't matter what he was doing or where he was, because he wasn't at Hanoi Hilton. 
   "I've never had a bad Sept. 21 since 1972; I don't have anymore bad days," the colonel said. 
   Hanoi Hilton earned its sarcastic nickname from inmates because the prison was the total opposite of the respectable Hilton Hotel chain. The prison, which was occupied mostly by American pilots who were shot down during bombing raids, had a notorious reputation for torture and inhumane interrogation methods, according to an Internet encyclopedia. 
   Col. Stutz was one of 600 Americans released from Hanoi Hilton in March 1973. 
   Following his speech, the Tinker Chief's Group presented the colonel with a $100 donation made to the Tinker POW/MIA Association in his name. 
   Later that morning, Col. Stutz spoke at the Tinker Air Force Base POW/MIA Memorial brick dedication ceremony at the Maj. Charles B. Hall Memorial Airpark. The dedication of the brick is the fourth phase of the memorial and was attended by roughly 25 guests. 
   The brick was recovered from the original site of Hanoi Hilton, which was built in 1904 by the French. Only part of the prison still exists today. It is a museum. The rest of the prison was demolished and reconstructed into a high rise tower, according to an Internet encyclopedia. 

Photos: A brick from the Vietnam War prisoner of war camp known as “Hanoi Hilton” was dedicated at the POW/MIA section of the Tinker Airpark Sept. 21. Unveiling the brick are, from left; Airman 1st Class Stephanie Harrison, POW/MIA committee president; Col. Brad Ashley, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center vice commander; Senior Airman Lawrence Bach, committee vice president: Dan Campos, committee member who donated the brick; special guest, former prisoner of war and Air Force retired colonel Leroy Stutz; and Chief Master Sgt. Randy Voigtschild. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright) 

by Brandice J. Armstrong
Tinker Public Affairs


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